Monday, December 27, 2004
The disability law case, Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line, will be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday, February 28th, 2005. The case concerns the application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to foreign-flag cruise ships in United States waters. Title III bars discrimination against the disabled in places of "public accommodation."
The issue arose when Mr. Spector, who rides a motorized scooter because a tumor on his spine makes walking impossible, took a cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. According to Mr. Spector, the ship was very ill-equipped for disabled passengers. Not only did the ship not have ramps for access to restaurants, swimming pools, restrooms and even lifeboats, but they charged him extra for a disability accessible cabin.
In a class action lawsuit, he and the other plaintiffs sued requesting injunctive relief that would require the cruise line to remove the barriers preventing disabled passengers from moving around the ship freely. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that Title III applies to foreign ships within U.S. territorial waters. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in an opinion authored by Judge Edith H. Jones, unanimously reversed, saying Title III does not apply to foreign ships because there is no evidence that Congress intended the law to affect these ships. The Fifth circuit’s decision conflicts with the Eleventh circuit, which decided per curiam in 2000 that Title III did apply to foreign-flagged cruise ships, Tammy Stevens v. Premier Cruises, Inc.
The briefs of the parties and various amicus briefs are available at SCOTUSblog.